Non-invasive brain stimulation techniques for chronic pain. A report of a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis.
ABSTRACT Non-invasive brain stimulation techniques aim to induce an electrical stimulation of the brain in an attempt to reduce chronic pain by directly altering brain activity. They include repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).
To evaluate the efficacy of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques in chronic pain.
A Cochrane systematic review with meta-analyses.
We employed a comprehensive search strategy. Randomised and quasi-randomised studies of rTMS, CES or tDCS were included if they employed a sham stimulation control group, recruited patients over the age of 18 with pain of three months duration or more and measured pain as a primary outcome. Where possible we entered data into meta-analyses.
We included 33 trials in the review (19 rTMS, eight CES and six tDCS). Only one study was judged as being at low risk of bias. Studies of rTMS demonstrated significant heterogeneity. Pre-specified subgroup analyses suggest that low-frequency stimulation is ineffective. A short-term effect on pain of active high-frequency stimulation of the motor cortex in single-dose studies was suggested (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.40, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.26 to -0.54, P < 0.00001). This equates to a 15% (95% CI 10% to 20%) reduction in pain which does not clearly exceed the pre-established criteria for a minimally clinically important difference (> 15%). For CES (four studies, 133 participants) no statistically significant difference was found between active stimulation and sham. Analysis of tDCS studies (five studies, 83 people) demonstrated significant heterogeneity and did not find a significant difference between active and sham stimulation. Pre-specified subgroup analysis of tDCS applied to the motor cortex suggested superiority of active stimulation over sham (SMD -0.59, 95% CI -1.10 to -0.08). Non-invasive brain stimulation appears to be associated with minor and transient side effects.
Single doses of high-frequency rTMS of the motor cortex may have small short-term effects on chronic pain. The effects do not clearly exceed the predetermined threshold of minimal clinical significance. Low-frequency rTMS is not effective in the treatment of chronic pain. There is insufficient evidence from which to draw firm conclusions regarding the efficacy of CES or tDCS. The available evidence suggests that tDCS applied to the motor cortex may have short-term effects on chronic pain and that CES may be ineffective. There is a need for further, rigorously designed studies of all types of stimulation.
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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Supraspinal activity-dependent neuroplasticity may be important in the transition from acute to chronic pain. We examined neuroplasticity in a cortical region not considered to be a primary component of the central pain matrix in chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) patients. We hypothesised that neuroplasticity would be exaggerated in CTTH patients compared to healthy controls, which might explain (in part) the development of chronic pain in these individuals. METHODS: Neuroplasticity was examined following a ballistic motor training task in CTTH patients and control subjects (CS). Changes in peak acceleration (motor learning) and motor-evoked potential (MEP) amplitude evoked by single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation were compared. RESULTS: CTTH patients showed significantly less motor learning on the training task than CS (mean acceleration increase 87% CTTH, 204% CS, P < .05), and CS but not CTTH patients showed a significant increased MEP amplitude following training (CS: F = 2.9, P < .05; CTTH: F = 1.6, P > .05). CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest a deficit in use-dependent neuroplasticity within networks responsible for task performance in CTTH patients which might reflect reciprocal influences between primary motor cortex and interconnected pain processing networks. These findings may help explain the positive effects of facilitatory non-invasive brain stimulation targeting motor areas on chronic pain and help elucidate the mechanisms mediating chronic pain.Cephalalgia 04/2013; · 3.43 Impact Factor
Article: Dissociation of motor task-induced cortical excitability and pain perception changes in healthy volunteers.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: There is evidence that interventions aiming at modulation of the motor cortex activity lead to pain reduction. In order to understand further the role of the motor cortex on pain modulation, we aimed to compare the behavioral (pressure pain threshold) and neurophysiological effects (transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) induced cortical excitability) across three different motor tasks. Fifteen healthy male subjects were enrolled in this randomized, controlled, blinded, cross-over designed study. Three different tasks were tested including motor learning with and without visual feedback, and simple hand movements. Cortical excitability was assessed using single and paired-pulse TMS measures such as resting motor threshold (RMT), motor-evoked potential (MEP), intracortical facilitation (ICF), short intracortical inhibition (SICI), and cortical silent period (CSP). All tasks showed significant reduction in pain perception represented by an increase in pressure pain threshold compared to the control condition (untrained hand). ANOVA indicated a difference among the three tasks regarding motor cortex excitability change. There was a significant increase in motor cortex excitability (as indexed by MEP increase and CSP shortening) for the simple hand movements. Although different motor tasks involving motor learning with and without visual feedback and simple hand movements appear to change pain perception similarly, it is likely that the neural mechanisms might not be the same as evidenced by differential effects in motor cortex excitability induced by these tasks. In addition, TMS-indexed motor excitability measures are not likely good markers to index the effects of motor-based tasks on pain perception in healthy subjects as other neural networks besides primary motor cortex might be involved with pain modulation during motor training.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(3):e34273. · 4.09 Impact Factor